The day Helmut Schmidt played at Abbey Road

The day Helmut Schmidt played at Abbey Road


norman lebrecht

November 10, 2015

It’s the security I remember best.

One day in December 1981 the German Chancellor was flown in by Luftwaffe jet to record a Mozart piano concerto at the fabled studios – and all traffic in the neighbourhood went into logjam as the cops came out in force.

Schmidt, who died today aged 96, played third Steinway to Christoph Eschenbach and Justus Franz in a dare-you recording of Mozart’s triple concerto with the London Philharmonic.

On hearing the edit, the Chancellor said he had no idea he was such a good pianist. He wasn’t; EMI had great editors in those days. I think Peter Andry was executive producer.

But he was a tremendous music lover and supporter of the arts. No major artist ever played in Bonn or Cologne while he was Chancellor without being invited to dinner.

May he rest in peace.

helmut schmidt triple

Watch Schmidt play here (at 4:20), followed by comments from Kurt Masur and Henry Kissinger.

UPDATE: And here’s more about the session and who made off with Helmut’s hat.



  • Herbert Glass says:

    Was the Luftwaffe jet accompanied by Wehrmacht officers?

  • Herbert Glass says:

    My bad. The military arm still seems, with classic German tact, to be called Luftwaffe.

  • Hilary says:

    He smoked 20 cigarettes per day and yet lived til he was 94.

  • Costa Pilavachi says:

    When Helmut Schmidt arrived at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa, 1981, he went straight to the National Arts Centre Opera to see Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Classical music was central to his life.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Chris Esch had hair back then.

  • Hilary says:

    Schmidt was among the most thoughtful of the commentators in this well known documentary on Karajan. He remarks upon the differences between HvK (not interested in politics supposedly ) and Bernstein (very interested in politics): the film whimsically cuts to a political quip by HvK.